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DRAG ME TO HELL - THE PIT OF HORROR REVIEW -- [Posted 2 June 2009]


Drag Me To Hell has a lot going both for it and against it as it enters the horror ring. In its corner, it's directed and co-written by the celebrated Sam Raimi. It deals with issues of eternal damnation, lurking demons and decomposing old ladies, among other horrors. Elsewhere, it's branded by that hated PG-13 rating. On the heels of that, let's add that there's no nudity, and the violence is mostly bloodless. Did I mention that the hardest swearing in the film is a sparing use of "bitch" or "damn"? I personally find those "deficiencies" rather refreshing, and Drag Me To Hell, despite some theological absurdities, is one of the most original and jarring horror jaunts in many years.

Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), an ambitious young loan officer in a big city bank, is up for a promotion. Her boss, the officious Mr. Jacks (David Paymer), hints that "making tough decisions" is the key to upward mobility in this company, especially since there's a rival candidate working for the same promotion. Stu Rubin (Reggie Lee), a newcomer to the bank, but clearly a go-getter, suddenly gets private lunches with Mr. Jacks, and Christine feels a need to show her professional fortitude to Jacks. She finds it in a fateful encounter with an enigmatic gypsy woman.

Lorna Raver is unforgettable as Mrs. Ganush, a poor Hungarian woman who needs a third extension on her mortgage payment. She is at once sympathetic, then disgusting in her hygiene habits, and ultimately pitiful. When she bends her knee to save herself from eviction, Christine--hoping to secure her promotion--declines her request for another extension and has security remove her from the bank, shaming the woman. Only later in the day, in the parking garage, Christine is attacked by Mrs. Gunash, who rips a button off her coat and places a curse on it. Christine's loving but skeptical boyfriend Clay (Justin Long) puts up his own cash to first visit spiritist Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) and later a full-on medium named Shaun San Dena (Adriana Baraza) for a terrifying revelation. Christine has been cursed with Lamia, a particular demon which torments its victims for three days before literally cracking open the gates of Hell and dragging its victims below, ostensibly to sizzle in the flames for all time.

During this period, Christine has a series of character choices as she battles the Lamia demon which pounds on her apartment door; throws her around her apartment; causes her to lock herself into a bedroom while menacing hooves and shadow-claws emerge from under the locked doors. An awkward dinner party with Clay's snooty parents is summarily ruined because of the demon. Christine is even given the chance to elude the curse by passing it to another person. You get the picture. This is a demon who demands his own. And the being is only shown in horned-and-hooved shadowed form, thankfully avoiding some retread CGI creature. Meanwhile, Christine is no quitter, as she figures out a possible key to satisfying the demon during a furious rainstorm while digging up a grotesque corpse.

Raimi employs some of the humor he used in his Evil Dead pictures. Cat lovers beware--Christine heeds a hint that a blood-sacrifice could possibly placate this demon. Hence, there's a "Here, kitty-kitty" scene that's particularly unnerving, while remaining perversely funny. Christopher Young provides a musical score that would make Danny Elfman (Raimi's usual musical collaborator) proud. The jittery fiddles heard throughout gradually become a mournful ode to the damned. And kudos to the KNB Effects Group, whose icky work juggles the thin line between PG-13 and Rated R. The thematic elements here alone seem to warrant an R; what can you say about a film in which, during the first five minutes, the floor literally opens up and a nine-year-old little boy is dragged screaming into the flames of Hell?

While many of the scares in Drag Me To Hell are the product of mere chair-jumper stingers, it cannot be denied that Sam Raimi has crafted a fine horror yarn, possibly one that won't resonate well with mainstream audiences given its grim conclusion. But if nothing else, this film establishes Lorna Raver as a horror star, and Mrs. Ganush as a formidable horror icon who, alive or dead, could continue to terrify audiences for years to come.

'DRAG ME TO HELL' A Film by SAM RAIMI
Starring ALISON LOHMAN - JUSTIN LONG - LORNA RAVER - DILEEP RAO - DAVID PAYMER
Written by Sam Raimi and Ivan Raimi. Directed by Sam Raimi.

[DISCUSS ON OUR FORUMS] [Review By Petch Lucas]
PITOFHORROR.com

DRAG ME TO HELL

YEAR: 2009

STUDIO: UNIVERSAL

COUNTRY USA

RUN TIME 99 mins (US)

CERT: USA, PG-13

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